Sunday: Due to the breakdown at the Starved Rock Lock we are staying here in Ottawa at least one more day. We use the day to do some additional unique shopping and Tracy sets up another movie night with the selection being Forest Gump. We get the crews from Big Bear, Sea Cottage and Wild Goose and we all have a great time watching the movie. Jeremy Fowler sets up a room in the marina offices for us that has a large screen TV and he agrees to stay overtime so we can use the room. Now that’s a guy who cares about his customers! Also we get the on-site restaurant to deliver food to us while watching the movie and it’s really a comfortable evening for our last night in Heritage Harbor Ottawa. After the movie is over around 9pm we all turn in agreeing that we’ll call the lock first thing in the AM and go with whatever they recommend for time of departure, but we will all be ready to leave for 8am incase he says to come right away!
Monday: As planned, we make the call to the lockmaster at 6:15am and he tells us to be there for 9:30am and he’ll get us thru. Since the lock is twelve miles downriver, leaving at 8:00am will be just perfect. So Carousal, Big Bear, Kailani, Sea Cottage and Wild Goose all pull off the docks at 8:00am and head for the Starved Rock Lock. Once we’re within range for the VHF, we call him again and he says that it will be another good hour to an hour and a half, so I decide to duck into Starved Rock Marina and top off my tanks while we’re waiting. The little bit of extra fuel would come in useful if we’re doing a lot of waiting at locks while idling.!
While we’re waiting, two more loopers come by and cruise right up to the lock to wait. They came from the marina and go a lot faster than our pack of trawlers, so Island Bum and Bella Blue were able to sit back and stay at the dock longer. However their strategy didn’t get us into the lock chamber any quicker.
No, in reality, the hour to an hour and a half that we were told at 9:15am turned into three full hours!!! We were called into the lock chamber at 12:15pm along with the tow Daniel Egan and we were soon cruising south again towards Henry Harbor Marina.
With the three hour delay at the lock the total time on the water today for this forty nautical mile trip turned out to be eight hours and fifteen minutes. So needless to say we were all very tired sailors after all five boats were tied up at the old lock wall. This is a primitive marina where virtually nobody knew anything about boats or shore power and we were basically on our own to fend for ourselves on this tie-up.
The shore power connections were on telephone poles about 30 feet from the old lock wall, so getting our cords to reach and stay connected became a virtual nightmare and after we were all hooked up it looked like before the night was over we’d be getting introduced to the local volunteer fire department. The only thing they were good at was taking $1.00 per foot fee for staying the night. At least they had a semi decent restaurant on site and Tracy and I were so exhausted from the day that we just walked up, paid our $46.00 for the dockage and stayed right there and had a meal that someone else cooked and someone else cleaned up. That was the best part of that dinner.
After dinner and letting Frankie run around free because he really couldn’t escape this little peninsula of land, we all agreed to plan on a 9am departure for Peoria which was only 30 miles downriver and no bridges or lock to deal with.
Tuesday: As agreed we were all ready to shove off at 9am and soon all five vessels were in the river cruising downstream towards Peoria. The first half of the trip was extremely quiet with no other tows or vessels to pass or overtake. Then the second half of this leg got rather busy with three tows to pass and two tows to overtake. We had two vessels with AIS, the Automated Information System that allows transmission of vessel names, captains, size, destination, speed, etc. onto other vessels with similar AIS to read and it just so happened that in our flotilla, Sea Cottage and Carousel both were equipped with this technology. So with each approaching and overtaking vessel, we were able to call them by name and get responses regarding which side of their vessel they wanted us to proceed. This insures a safer and more stress free cruise for sure.
In less than four hours, we were pulling into the Town of Peoria and cruising towards the Peoria City Docks. We knew that the city docks would be a tight fit for the five of us, but knowing that it’s midweek in October, we didn’t plan on much boat traffic being tied up for the night at the wall, so we were surprised that once we got there there was only room for one, maybe two vessels and the rest would have to seek dockage elsewhere. The good news is that on the way down as we passed the Illinois Valley Yacht (IVY) Club Tracy called them to see if they had room for five transients, just so we’d have a plan B and that’s exactly what Kailani, Sea Cottage and Big Bear did once Carousel and Wild Goose were secured on the city docks wall. So we back-tracked seven miles to the IVY Club and Tim the Harbor Master was waiting for each of us as we came in thru the break water into the club slips.
Soon we were all secured and hooked up to very good power and the rest of the afternoon was ours to enjoy. The only thing is that the city docks are right in the heart of all the action in this town and the IVY Club is 7 miles out of the hub with no close services.
But we do know that there is Uber here and we will definitely be using them tomorrow because Peoria is the home of Caterpillar and that’s where our hard working engines come from, so tomorrow, we’re going to spend time at the Caterpillar Museum for sure.
Wednesday: Erik, Barry and I make arrangements for an Uber to drive us to the Caterpillar Museum and Visitors Center. We wait out front of the IVY Club and Daniel shows up on time for our ride.
Soon we’re getting dropped off in front of the Caterpillar Museum for our tour of the facility. Once we’re in and paid, we are led into the bed of a Cat 797F Mining Truck. This is one of the largest mining trucks in the world with a payload capacity of 400 tons of ore and can travel at 42 miles per hour fully loaded! We are sitting in the bed of one of these vehicles and we’re basically 25 feet off the museum floor. In this bed we will watch a fifteen minute video about Caterpillar and the layout of the museum. After the video we walk down two flights of stairs to get to the museum floor where there are timelines of the company, full scale pieces of some of the equipment Cat manufactures, video presentations showing the different aspects of the manufacturing process, simulators, a nascar room and of course the fourteen foot high wheels of the Cat 797F Mining Truck! We spend two hours watching, listening and being amazed at some of the facts and figures describing the Caterpillar Company. At all times, there are guides on the museum floor to answer questions and make suggestions on stuff to see and do.
So after Ron, the guide suggests we try the simulators, we walk over to an area where you can sit in the seat of an excavator, or a bulldozer and operate the controls on a simulator screen. Both simulators are set up for the equipment to backfill a pipe that’s already been laid in a trench. So you can try bulldozing the soil back over the pipe or scoop, swing and drop the soil with the excavator. These are both very neat simulators and it’s quite entertaining to try the controls of these pieces of machinery.
After we’re done in the museum area, we go back upstairs to the Cat store and look thru all the merchandise they sell with the Cat logo. There’s shirts, jackets, parkas, gloves, hats, decks of cards, mugs, keychains, etc. , pretty much anything you can imagine is in this store for sale with the Cat Logo. After Barry buys a few hats and I but hat and a pocketed T Shirt, we walk a few blocks to Kenny’s Irish Pub for some lunch. The portions are large and filling, then we walk six blocks to a Walgreens so Erik can get some products. The Walgreens ends up being inside a local hospital and when we finally get to the block where the hospital is, we walk into one of the entrances to find an unattended entrance with nobody available to help us find the Walgreens. But as we’re deciding our next move, a hospital employee comes walking out of the elevator towards the exit. She is an Oncology Dietician and her day is over. We ask her if she would be so kind as to show us the way to the Walgreens and she tells us that it’s around the block inside the main entrance to the hospital. Then she offers to take us there, so here’s this lady who is leaving the hospital ready to go home after a hard days work and she takes us around the block, up a hill and into the hospital main entrance, then walks us down the main corridor to the Walgreens b before we can thank her for her time spent helping us out. Once again, the willingness of people to step in and help strangers is refreshing and well appreciated.
After we’re done with the hospital trip, Barry calls for an Uber and soon we’re back at the IVY Club Marina. We have reservations for dinner at 7pm so we all retire to our respective vessels so we can get ready to meet back up in the clubhouse dining room at 7pm.
Dinner is a blast with the crews of Kailani, Sea Cottage and Wild Goose and afterwards it’s 9pm so we all head back to the vessels for a good night’s sleep. Tomorrow we plan to cruise 40 plus miles to either Tall Timbers Marina or if the water is still too shallow, we’ll be anchoring behind Quiver Island right next to the marina.
Thursday: Sea Cottage finds oil stains on his engine room floor while doing his engine checks this morning and has to bow out of today’s journey. Wild Goose and Kailani hold off departing while Sea Cottage makes contact with a mechanic from the next marina over and within 15 minutes, he’s checking out the status. Wild Goose and Kailani discuss moving on without Sea Cottage, but decide to wait out another day to see if Sea Cottage can get back on the water today. The mechanic determines that one of the turbochargers needs to be replaced and it will take until probably next Monday to get the parts and then Tuesday to install them. Now Wild Goose and Kailani are thinking about moving on because Kailani needs to get to the Mississippi for some repairs while we drive back home for a visit with family.
But for today, we’ll stay here and make a shopping trip to East Peoria where there’s a Costco, Target, Walmart, Bass Pro Shops, etc. Pretty much every kind of store for anything we could need. So Barry and Carol from Wild Goose, Jennifer from Sea Cottage and Tracy and I get into an Uber car and travel over to East Peoria, stopping first at Costco. After some supplies, we walk over to the Target and we find a few things, but basically strike out there. So then we call for an Uber to get us to the Bass Pro Shops where we do well and score a quite a few necessary purchases. Then we all sit down for a lunch in the Bass Pro Shops Restaurant. After lunch and loaded down with bags and boxes, we call for another Uber to get us home.
Wild Goose and Kailani make plans for a Friday departure while Sea Cottage is still laid up needing repairs. The rest of the day is spent cleaning boats, spending time around the IVY Club and getting Kailani ready for tomorrow’s departure. We make arrangements to meet Ron Johnson, the Harbor Master at 8:00 am for a pump out then we’ll shove off.
Friday: We wake up to heavy rain and news that the Cummins mechanic has shown up with Sea Cottage’s turbocharger and he expects to be done by noontime. So since it’s raining fairly heavily, Wild Goose and Kailani decide to roll the dice and stick around until noontime so we can cruise together with Sea Cottage. Noontime and the turbocharger is installed, but the mechanic has found that a coolant hose needs replacement, so off he goes to locate one and we all decide that Saturday will be a nice day for a cruise to Havana.
We still move Kailani over to the pump out dock and get that out of the way so it’s not still on our to-do list tomorrow and it turns out to be a good thing that we did complete it today.
Tracy goes over to Sea Cottage and watches Shark Tales with the crew of Sea Cottage while I get some last minute chores done in preparation for tomorrow’s cruise. I’ve already spoken to Bob at Tall Timbers numerous time and each time it appears that the water levels are rising and we should be able to get into his harbor on Saturday. Also I call Logsdon Tug Service in Beardstown and make arrangements for the availability of space for our three vessels at their tug/barge dock and they confirm that they have only three spaces and nobody has called yet for Sunday, so we will be good when we arrive there.
With that all in place, Friday evening is a relaxing night and we all agree to be ready for an 8:00 am departure, but that we will call the Peoria Lock and check status prior to leaving.
Saturday: Erik calls the lock at 6:15am and he says to be there for 8:45 am and he’ll be able to get us thru. So we all agree to depart by 7:15 am for the 10 mile run to the lock. Kailani pulls out first followed by Wild Goose then Sea Cottage and we start cruising downriver towards the center of Peoria. As we are passing under the bridge in Peoria, the Spirit of Peoria, a paddle wheel cruise liner is blowing his horn to pull out from his dock. So he falls in behind the three of us and we are all cruising downriver towards the Peoria Lock and Dam. We also had spotted three cruisers that left the Peoria Town Docks ahead of us and were already a couple of miles ahead of us. We thought that possibly the lock master would mistake them for the three of us that had called earlier this morning, but what ultimately occurred was that the three of us and the Spirit of Peoria arrived at the lock at nearly the same time and the lock master told us that the paddle wheel had the right of way so he would go first. The good thing was that the drop was only five feet, so the Spirit of Peoria with its 134 passengers heading to St Louis entered the lock first, the lock dropped 5 feet, the gates opened and the paddle wheel continued down river, the gates re-closed and the lock master filled the chamber and soon he was opening the up river gated for us to enter. All this occurred while a downriver tow with 15 barges waited along the right descending bank for us to complete our lockage. That was very accommodating of him and soon we were thru the lock and cruising downriver towards Havana and Tall Timbers Marina. Bob, the marina owner, called and said he wouldn’t be there when we arrived but there was sufficient water and he wanted Sea Cottage (the largest vessel of our fleet) to enter the harbor first, take the northernmost long dock, then for the other two vessels to come thru and dock at any of the remaining three finger slips. So it was good to have that information.
But we still had to cruise 30 more miles to get there and during that cruise, we had to overtake one 15 barge toes and pass 2 other up river tows with 12 barges each. This has become rather commonplace for us as Sea Cottage has their AIS light up their screen with the tow name, speed of vessel, and location. So even if they are around a blind turn in the river, the AIS lets us know they’re there and we can call them so there are no surprises. We always ask the tow Captain which side of his tow he wants us to pass and the answer is in whistles. When both vessels are going in the same direction, ‘one whistle’ means he would like us to overtake him on his starboard (left) side which is our port (right) side, and if he says ‘two whistles’ he wants us to pass on his port side and keep him on our starboard side. Conversely when vessels are in opposite directions, ‘one whistle’ means to pass him on his port side and our port side while ‘two whistles’ means to pass him on his starboard side and our starboard side. It’s really quite simple and easy to remember once you use it a few times.
By 1:00 pm we are looking at the entrance to Tall Timbers Marina and as requested, Sea Cottage enters first followed by Wild Goose then Kailani. The marina harbor was loaded with asian carp and once they heard the roar of our diesel engines, the harbor was jumping with hundreds of carp. It was truly a spectacle to watch as Wild Goose was right in front of us and while Carol was getting the lines ready for dockage, one carp jumped right onto their stern platform and stayed there for about thirty seconds before wiggling his way back into the water. It made for an interesting run into our slips.
Tall Timbers Marina turned out to be a really nice little marina unlike most we’ve seen and stayed at over the last six months. We would later find out that Bob Skoglund designed and built most of it on his own and little touches like picnic tables on floating pavilions out on the docks in between vessels made for a nice afternoon relaxing. The power was excellent as was the wifi, so all in all this was a very nice stop. We found out that today is Carol’s birthday, So Barry and I walked into town to scope out the restaurants for a location to have a celebratory dinner. We decided on the Town House Restaurant and since they didn’t open until 4:00 pm we just decided to call them later for a reservation. Once we returned to the marina there was Shirley who had helped us with our dock lines earlier walking thru the marina so we told her we were planning to call later for a reservation for 7:00 pm at the Town House Restaurant and she said there was no need for the call, we would be fine, then she drive off and we returned to our slips. Later (around 5:30 pm) Barry called the restaurant just to be sure and as luck would have it they said that it could potentially be a problem seating right at 7:00 pm but to come by anyway and they’d do their best to fit us in, so apparently, Shirley didn’t know much about the restaurant business in Havana!
We all agreed to meet at 6:30 pm to start walking to the restaurant and we got there just at 7:00 pm and the table was available, they just had to set it up with place settings and we’d be able to be seated. Once we were all seated, Barry let us know that he was picking up the tab since it was Carol’s birthday and we all let him know him much we appreciated his gesture. He and Carol just appreciated that we all were there to spend the special day with them.
The meals were very well prepared. Most of us had either the Rib-eye or the NY Strip and we all left room for dessert. Tracy secretly went over to the waitress and asked her for a special dessert for Carol and she was told that this restaurant didn’t have a dessert menu but they could do a drink or something. We were all surprised that we were in the only restaurant in the country that doesn’t have a dessert menu! But as we were walking back to the marina we passed a Dollar General and for 9:00 pm in a small town, it was hopping! So we went to check it out and Barry and I could three gallons of Edy’s ice cream and we brought the ice cream back to the marina, sat down on now of those pavilion picnic tables between Sea Cottage and Kailani and ate ice cream under the light of battery operated lanterns that Kailani and Wild Goose had on board their vessels. Carol really had a great birthday all in all. After the ice cream, we decided that since tomorrow’s cruise was only 28 nautical miles, we’d stay later into the morning here, take advantage of the marina power since the next two nights would be without shore power and leave around 11:00 am or so. Goodnights all around and we retired to our respective vessels for the night.